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  • Writer's pictureDr. Dominic Dixon

Gender equality is good for business, leaders say at 2018 WEPs Forum

The 2018 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Forum convenes business leaders and policy experts from Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union; launches the programme, Win-Win: Gender equality means good business.

Participants of the 2018 WEPs Forum, including Vice President and Chancellor of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado; Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, Luiza Carvalho; Representative of UN Women Brazil, Nadine Gasman and delegations of the six countries where Win-Win Programme is being implemented. Photo: UN Women Brazil/Angela Rezé

The recently concluded 2018 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) Forum, held in São Paulo, Brazil, from 29 – 30 August, brought together almost 550 business leaders from private and public sectors from Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union, to share experiences to accelerate women’s economic empowerment. Themed as, “A dialogue between Latin American, Caribbean countries and the European Union”, the Forum also featured high-level dignitaries, such as Panama's Vice President and Chancellor, Isabel de Saint Malo Alvarado and the Minister of Women and Gender Equality of Chile, Isabel Plá, among others.

Developed by UN Women and UN Global Compact and informed by real-life business practices, the WEPs are a set of seven principles that guide companies to implement actions to promote gender equality in the workplace, market and community. To date, 2,000 companies worldwide have signed on to the WEPs. Two new Brazilian companies announced their affiliation to the WEPs at this year’s Forum—Lee Hecht Harrison Brasil and Sodexo Benefícios e Incentivos—bringing to 174 the number of signatory companies from Brazil.

Also at the 2018 Forum, UN Women, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the European Union launched the much-awaited regional programme, “Win-Win: Gender equality means good business”, which will be implemented across six countries in the region over a period of three years: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Uruguay.

Speaking at the launch, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, Luiza Carvalho, highlighted the role of companies in accelerating the empowerment of women. “They can promote many actions, by changing their corporate culture, by eliminating discriminatory practices, and by promoting policies that help women rise up the corporate ladder.”

“It's not possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without liberating the potential of women,” added João Gomes Cravinho, European Union's ambassador to Brazil. “With this project, we want to help create conditions for women entrepreneurs from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean to work together. That's good for everyone and that's why we talk about Win-Win's great potential.”

Globally, women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. According to latest research, the wage gap between men and women in Latin America and the Caribbean region stands at 15 percent and less women are in higher paid positions. An unpublished study presented by Dom Cabral Foundation at the Forum showed that while 54 per cent of the coordination posts in the region are occupied by women, only 31 per cent of management positions are held by women. The percentage shrinks to a mere 26 per cent for presidential and vice-presidential posts in companies.

In her speech, Panama's Vice President and Chancellor, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, pointed out that wage differentials between men and women are more pronounced in urban areas of rich countries where there are large numbers of women in informal work and part-time work. “It is unacceptable that today, after so many years of civilization and society, there are still differences between men and women. Success in the equity agenda is a shared responsibility,” she said.

“In Latin America, talent, merit and effort for women are not enough. Today, only 7 per cent of us are in management positions in Chilean politics,” said Isabel Plá, Minister of Women and Gender Equality of Chile.

The “Win-Win: Gender equality means good business” programme will engage private sector companies, women’s business networks, women entrepreneurs and others to foster women’s economic empowerment and exchange good practices. It will drive organizational change in private and public sector companies to advance gender equality; promote partnerships and innovation between women from Europe and Latin American region.

Martin Hahn, Director of ILO in Brazil drew attention to the potential of change that the private sector can bring: “The power of business transformation is huge and very strategic to business. We perceive that there is a direct and very clear relationship in the improvement of the results of companies that have implemented programmes that promote gender equality. More diversity creates creativity and improvement in products,” he said.

Lidia Abdalla, CEO of Sabin Medicina Diagnóstica, a WEPs signatory, emphasized on the need to transform institutional culture and impact supply chains. “[This] is not always easy,” said Abdalla. “It brings management challenges, but also a great wealth for business.”

The 2018 Forum invited dialogues on a wide array of issues, including the engagement of men to advance gender equality, the role of companies in combating violence against women at workplaces, gender-sensitive purchasing mechanisms and advertising stereotypes among others.

Copyright: UN Women News

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